Tag Archives: Search Marketing Landing Pages

How your website redesign can sabotage your paid search efforts

Recently, my PPC agency almost declined to take on a new client because the client’s website was so severely outdated. The site looked bad, was difficult to use and didn’t have an easy way to convert prospects. But when we learned that the client was in the process of redesigning this website, we agreed to move forward.

This scenario suggests that when clients announce a website redesign, it’s good news for PPC. But is it? Well, yes and no. Yes, because updated websites that work well and inspire trust can help our paid search efforts.

But no, because website redesigns can also end up sabotaging paid search programs — at least temporarily. Experience tells us that redesigns rarely run smoothly from a PPC perspective. Inevitably, there will be problems we’ll need to fix.

In this article, I’ll walk through what can go wrong with website redesign from the vantage point of PPC professionals. By knowing these problem areas in advance, you and your marketing team can anticipate and avoid some of the most common issues.

Where things can go wrong in website redesigns

Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for elements and functions that are critical for paid search advertising to get dropped somewhere during the redesign process. We usually see this with phone numbers, trust signals, tracking codes, thank-you pages and forms.

1. Phone numbers

Sometimes the client’s phone number, which was prominently displayed at the top of every old web page, is absent from new pages. Or, if it’s still present, it’s smaller in size and more difficult to spot.

Here’s an example:

This image is the top portion of a client’s new webpage. But where did the phone number go? Originally, it had a prominent position at the top of every page. But now, users have to click the “contact us” button to find it. Why force visitors to take this extra step?

2. Trust signals

Other times, the phone number will remain but trust signals are removed. Elements such as testimonials, certification badges and affiliations are either missing or only present on select pages.

Why do we care about phone numbers and trust signals as paid search pros? Because they have an important role to play in paid search. Making it more difficult for prospects to call you or removing elements that give prospects the confidence to do business with you will negatively impact your paid search efforts.

Additionally, we care about these elements being present on every page because we can’t assume that new prospects will start on your home page. They might start on a product page, service page or FAQs page. So we need phone numbers and trust signals to be present on those pages, too.

3. Tracking codes

Tracking codes return data that allow us to know exactly what’s going on with an account. We use these data to direct and refine our paid search efforts.

Without data from tracking codes, we’re essentially running accounts blindfolded. Yes, we can still make decisions based on our experience and knowledge, but those decisions will always be our best guesses. With tracking data, we can make decisions based on what’s actually happening.

Which codes are we most concerned about? At least these four:

Google Analytics code: This code tells us where your website traffic is coming from and when you’re getting it. It also tells us what visitors are doing when they get there and what technology they’re doing it with. This information is critical to paid search campaigns. For example, if we see that most users are converting via mobile, then we might focus our advertising efforts on mobile.Remarketing code: As the name suggests, we need remarketing code to run remarketing campaigns. (This isn’t a deal-breaker, however. We can also set up remarketing lists via Google Analytics.)Website call metrics code: We use website call tracking tags to track PPC visitors who call you once they land on your website.AdWords conversion code: AdWords conversion tracking shows us what happens after customers click your ads. It allows us to track the action we want visitors to take, whether that’s completing a form, downloading a white paper or something else.

I can see how these codes might get removed or corrupted in the course of redesigning a website. But at the same time, the impact of losing these codes is very real.

The sooner the problem is spotted, the sooner it can be corrected. But often, it’s not caught until the marketing team looks at its data and realizes something is off.

4. Thank-you pages

Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for website redesigns to do away with thank-you pages. These are pages that are returned to users after a contact form is submitted, confirming that the message has been sent.

Instead, visitors get a single thank-you line that appears on the contact page. It often looks something like this:

There are a few problems with this approach. First, it may leave visitors wondering whether their message went through. That single line of text is easy to miss.

Second, it’s a lost opportunity! Thank-you pages are a great place to put additional content to further engage visitors.

Third, we often use thank-you pages as a place to put tracking code. With no thank-you page, we have to resort to event tracking, which isn’t as simple as adding codes to thank-you pages (and can sometimes lead to errors).

5. Forms

Some website redesigns do away with contact forms entirely and replace them with email address links. This isn’t good.

Using email links seems like an outdated approach. Technically, we can still track these links via event tracking. But this can get tricky, and we sometimes run into technical issues.

When website redesign problems get worse

Even when things go bad with website redesigns, we can usually get back on track relatively quickly if we’re aware of the issues and the web design team is responsive.

But sometimes, things can go from bad to worse. In some cases, it can take weeks — or even months — to fix problems. And sometimes we can’t get the changes we need, so we end up developing workaround solutions.

For example, remember the client that replaced their contact forms with email address links? For technical reasons, we weren’t able to track when visitors clicked the link, and we couldn’t convince the web development team to put the forms back in place. We ended up developing landing pages for each page that contained an email address.

Sometimes, problems are ongoing. For example, we have one client where the developer does a backend refresh regularly. Every single time, our tracking code gets stripped from the web pages. Needless to say, this gets old real fast.

And sometimes, we see website design issues on the horizon. For example, one of our PPC clients redesigned their site last month. When we saw the new site, we were surprised to see it was HTTP and not HTTPS. We raised this issue with the designer, pointing to the announcement that Chrome will start adding “not secure” warnings to non-HTTPS pages.

The designer’s response? “We’ve scheduled that for later.” Oh boy. In the meantime, we’re holding our breath. Because nothing will shoot down a paid search program faster than a website with “not secure” messaging.

So what’s the solution to these problems of website redesign? It’s to give serious consideration to the requirements of paid search as part of website redesign.

When I raised this question with Stephen Merriman at cre8d Design, our Group Twenty Seven go-to web designer, he responded with the following:

One of the steps I do just before migrating a completed website is to hunt through the existing site for any tracking codes and such to make sure nothing important gets removed. I also double-check with the client to see if there is anything they haven’t mentioned so we don’t experience issues.

Stephen Merriman

Which, in my opinion, is exactly the right response!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

The PPC challenge of selling manufacturing capability vs. stock products

While running a successful advertising campaign can be complex at the best of times, it presents a special challenge to small industrial manufacturers.

It’s one thing to advertise a widely understood product, such as a running shoe or blender, to a large consumer market. It’s another thing entirely to sell a manufacturing capability that’s only really understood by those in the industry — especially when products look and function differently based on the specifications of the buyer.

This challenge is particularly pronounced in the world of search engine marketing, where industrial manufacturers must adapt to an ad platform (e.g., AdWords) that seems more geared to retailers.

My company, Huff Industrial Marketing, faced this challenge with a manufacturing client. I’m pleased to report that through carefully and patiently running a variety of experiments, based on different approaches and ideas, we’re now seeing good results.

In this column, I’ll share how we did it.

A manufacturer of specialized machine parts

The client is in the business of making specialized machine parts used in a variety of manufacturing processes. Because each part is custom in size, type, material and so forth, what this client is really offering is the capability of making these specialized products. In other words, they don’t make “stock” products sold off the shelf.

This immediately created a conundrum with the PPC advertising campaign — namely, how in the heck do you advertise a manufacturing capability to buyers in dozens of industries?

Eventually, we came up with a solution that encompassed three critical PPC elements: keywords, messaging and landing pages.

Element #1: Keywords

Almost immediately, we knew that keywords were going to be a problem. One challenge is that terminology used in manufacturing is often specialized and used as “jargon” inside a company or industry niche — but may not be fully understood or used by buyers across the myriad industries or markets that exist.

Consequently, searches on these terms often return irrelevant results.

For example, when I conducted a search on a specialized type of manufacturing wheel, it returned results for car wheel rims and bike wheels — which wasn’t at all what I wanted (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Google keyword search result

Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to be something that Google’s machine learning could correct.

So, what to do? When we went too broad with our keywords, the ads ended up displaying with irrelevant search results. (Of course, we worked to mitigate this with negative keywords.) If we went too narrow, then search volumes were too low.

Eventually, what saved us was monitoring search queries for both organic search and PPC. Based on the data, we realized we had to stop thinking in terms of “capabilities” and start thinking in terms of “end products” — even when those end products weren’t standard.

Then, we marketed each end “product” individually through separate campaigns and ad groups.

As an aside, the client, too, was surprised at the terms buyers were using to source specific types of products. It’s been a real eye-opener for everyone on the team and has led to the client looking at new ways of marketing custom items they’ve been manufacturing for years.

Element #2: Ad messaging

We also took a closer look at our ad messaging — in particular, the calls to action.

If you’ve looked at PPC ads generated by industrial manufacturers, you’ll know it’s not unusual for these ads to include calls to action like “Free RFQ” or “Get a free quote!” in the ad body or sitelinks.

Figure 2: RFQ in ads

Initially, we followed the lead of other manufacturers and included similar calls to action in the ads. We realized very quickly they weren’t converting. When we thought about it more deeply, we realized that this kind of messaging didn’t make sense.

Why? Because at this point in the sales process, the client’s potential customers weren’t ready to embark on a lengthy quote process. They simply wanted an answer to the question, “Can you make this thing?”

It was a classic case of: “Don’t ask your prospects to marry you on the first date!”

In other words, prospects needed to talk to someone. So, we revised the ad copy — and landing pages — accordingly.

Element #3: Landing pages

Once we identified the issue with the call to action, we knew we needed to revise the landing pages. Instead of a call to action to fill out the RFQ form, we replaced it with a much shorter form that allowed potential customers to ask their “can you make this?” question (Figure 3):

Figure 3: Landing page form

At the same time, we reworked the landing page to remove any unnecessary navigation and competing calls to action.

This task was made significantly less onerous with the help of our web developer, who was able to reconfigure the client’s code and add simple “click to remove” options. This allowed us to remove the main nav, footers and so on by simply checking a box.

With this capability, we didn’t have to rely on a third-party landing page service, which saved the client money and also kept the landing pages on the client’s domain.

To top things off, the development team added the script for Google’s phone call conversion tracking, where Google dynamically changes the phone number on the landing page, allowing for tracking of desktop calls.

Result: Relevant traffic and good conversions

With these changes in place, we were quite pleased to see four “in-the-ballpark” form inquiries and four phone calls in the first five business days. Inquiries have continued to stream in at a good pace.

In conclusion…

What can industrial manufacturers take away from this experience? Three things:

    Focus on your business and sales process versus what other manufacturers are doing. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of “everyone else is doing it so it must be working.” Nope! Study your data and then experiment with different approaches until you see the results you want.Rethink what you’re selling. For many small industrial manufacturers, what is being sold is a capability — often to create highly specialized parts that go into bigger systems. Monitor organic and PPC search queries to see what terms potential buyers are using to find you — and let those queries be your keyword guide.Don’t give up! It’s very easy to become frustrated with AdWords (believe me!) when you’re spending money and seeing little, if any, return. Continually read the AdWords help files to understand how things work, find a good developer who can help you with tricky things like coding and tagging, and experiment. With patience, you will find a combination that works for you.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

5 non-traditional skills to look for in a PPC account manager

Hiring a dedicated pay-per-click marketer is tough.

Just about every two- and four-year university in North America offers a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and some even offer the opportunity to minor or specialize in digital marketing. But you can’t get a degree in the disciplines that correspond to an actual job — PPC, AdWords, Facebook Ads, online ad design, interactive ad copywriting and so on.

So, when you’re looking for new talent, unless you want to do the training yourself, you need to find candidates with prior experience.

A quick scroll through LinkedIn or AngelList shows a common thread of agencies and businesses seeking out a “number-driven, passionate, creative and analytical individual with 3+ years of experience managing accounts.”

The problem is that any motivated would-be marketing hire will claim to possess these skills. So what makes a candidate stand out?

5 skills that differentiate you from the everyday PPC marketer

Top-notch PPC (pay-per-click) marketers need a diverse set of skills to conquer new opportunities, roles and challenges working in digital. For me, a variety of capabilities and a willingness to learn new skills on the job are some of the most valued features in a potential candidate.

I believe that there are five skills seemingly unrelated to PPC that truly make up the Full-Stack PPC Marketer.

Note: I do not talk about Excel or Data Science, though these are important. Search Engine Land already has some great content on Excel (sexy charts, combo charts, mini-series for search) and Data Science (similarities between PPC and Data Science, testing ads like a data scientist).

Skill 1: Design

We’ve all grown tired of the overused phrase “visually engaging ads,” but there’s a reason why it’s repeated so often. Our content consumption behavior is becoming more visual than ever, so a deep understanding of design makes your ad creatives stand out above the rest.

That said, you shouldn’t expect your Account Managers to come up with brilliant, engaging ads from thin air for each new client, campaign and product.

You want someone who understands the guidelines of each platform and is resourceful enough to apply best practices around color, sizing and call-to-action (CTA) buttons.

Frequently, a screen shot of a landing page with a CTA button overlay gets the job done, but this may require a deep knowledge base and the ability to work with a design tool.

Must-have design knowledge for PPC marketers:

Google’s Guide to Display Ad Sizes and RulesFacebook Ad sizes, Text Rules, and Best Practices (from my employer, AdHawk)5 ingredients for writing the perfect expanded text adsA working knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or free alternatives like Canva or Pablo by Buffer

Skill 2: Sales

Google’s internal sales training was one of the most valuable assets I gained from being a part of the AdWords team.

I like to give account manager (AM) candidates an AdWords account and ask them to treat me like the client — explaining performance, immediate opportunities and potential for long-term growth. I expect account managers to be able to do these four things:

    Educate yourself. Google’s client-first approach requires that account managers do the work necessary to fully understand who they are working with before any sales discussion begins. This means getting to know the business owner, the marketing team, the product and the different customer personas.Educate the client. Once you understand the business, you can clearly explain what strategies will work for them and WHY. If you and the client can stay on the same page, they will feel that they are still in the driver’s seat in making marketing decisions.Set expectations. The worst thing you can do is oversell and underdeliver. It isn’t just an awful customer experience; it kills long-term revenue for your business.Handle objections. The most passionate business owners (the best ones to work with) question strategies, decisions and the lack of changes in their account. They want to make sure you’re on top of things. The way candidates handle confrontation is essential to their ability to build a strong relationship and keep clients happy in the long run.

Sales must-haves:

Strong research skillsObjection handlingExpectation settingActive listeningPass Google’s new Digital Sales Certification

Skill 3: HTML & CSS

Understanding how websites work is a critical skill to becoming a full-stack PPC marketer. For everything from ad design to website troubleshooting to conversion-tracking implementation, a basic understanding of HTML & CSS will go a long way.

HTML5 is a versatile markup language that is used to create a wide variety of ad formats. For example, HTML5 display ads are interactive and act as microsites within a page, opening up opportunities for higher conversions and experimental ad tactics.

Another great application of HTML5 is in Gmail Ads. Once someone opens your Gmail ad, they get an expanded version where advertisers can follow Google’s kinda tricky guidelines to create some pretty cool experiences. Expanded Gmail ads let you embed forms, videos, images and interactive elements directly in your ad.

Must-have web development skills:

Knowledge of the inspect element tool on preferred browserUnderstanding of web elements like classes and IDsCode Academy’s intro to HTML and CSS course

Skill 4: JavaScript

There are two levels of proficiency an AM can have with JavaScript. At the very least, candidates should understand what JavaScript is and apply that understanding to Facebook’s tracking Pixel, Google Tag Manager (GTM), Google Analytics (GA) and AdWords conversion tracking.

The next level up is being able to create custom events in GA, GTM or Facebook that track the correct conversion event and ideally capture important metadata around how much the conversion is worth to you.

This allows you to not only optimize your ads for conversions; it also allows you to optimize your ads to the most valuable conversions to the account.

A bonus attribute would be the ability to apply free public AdWords scripts and even make minor manipulations to the script when it isn’t working properly.

After getting comfortable with scripts, one of our employees modified an existing script to send a Slack notification whenever the CTR of an ad falls under a certain rate.

Must-have JavaScript skills:

Ability to set up event tracking in Analytics and Facebook AdsImplement basic Google Scripts using the script consoleAbility to educate someone else on how Facebook’s Pixel and Conversion tracking workCode Academy’s Free Javascript Course

Skill 5: Writing

AdWords only gives you 140 characters to catch your audience’s attention, convey value and entice a click. Candidates who can combine Hemingway’s succinct, impactful diction with the enthusiastic value propositions of an As-Seen-on-TV salesperson should be shoo-ins for the PPC job.

The mark of a skillful writer is the ability to communicate your unique value proposition, implement advertising best practices (keywords and strong call to action) and add a dash of brand personality to the mix.

The best way to sharpen writing skills is by writing more. Look for candidates with content marketing experience or an English or Journalism degree, or consider requiring a writing sample with the job posting.

Writing must-haves:

The ability to omit needless words, as per Strunk and WhiteKnowledge of the AdWords editorial standards and how to meet themA talent for enthusiastically expressing the brand voice

Anything else?

What other skills provide above-and-beyond value from your account managers? Share your insights with Search Engine Land on Twitter or Facebook.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Optimized store landing pages: An important part of local search strategy

If you’re a business which has brick-and-mortar store locations, you may know that having a local search strategy is crucial to your business. Most business owners are aware that building a local search presence requires having profiles on Google My Business, Yelp, Bing Places, Yellow Pages, etc., so that you may show up for local search queries and build local search relevance. Having a presence on these local directory/profile sites is definitely a core part of local search marketing.

Just as important is listing each of your business locations on your website. However, I’ve noticed that many businesses do not have landing pages for each of their store locations, which is a missed opportunity to further build local search relevance and rankings.

Each brick-and-mortar location presents an opportunity to highlight information that is specific to the store and its surrounding area. It also gives you the potential to outrank other local directory/profile sites such as Yelp, which as business owners you don’t have full control over.

Here are two examples. Both Party City and Dick’s Sporting Goods are doing an excellent job of building and optimizing store location pages — and as you can see below, those local landing pages outrank Yelp results. The Yelp profiles have low ratings, which is not something you want appearing in a top position.

Notice that they both have a location Knowledge Graph panel appearing in search results, along with multiple location landing pages. This is, in my opinion, the ideal user experience you want for your store locations. It increases the chances of your website getting the search traffic rather than a third-party site like Yelp.

Examples of optimized store landing pages

Let’s take a look at how Party City and Dick’s Sporting Goods optimized their store landing pages.

Party City

Party City has a plethora of content on their store location pages. They not only make it easy for users to navigate and find their store locations, but also include relevant content that is benefiting them in organic search.

These location landing pages have optimized page titles, meta descriptions and headers, as well as keyword targeted content. They have great social integration, highlighting their Instagram and Facebook profiles via widgets. These pages also exist within a logical hierarchy of pages, as evidenced by their URL structure: http://stores.partycity.com/nj/northbergen/party-store-pc711.html

Party City also leverages structured data markup from Schema.org to provide search engines with local content in a structured format.

Dick’s Sporting Goods

Dick’s local landing pages are also very SEO- and user-friendly. In addition to optimized copy and prominently displayed store information, these pages also highlight specific services that are offered at each store location. Weekly Ads that feature sales, offers and events are included, too.

Similar to Party City, Dick’s leverages structured data markup on their local landing pages. In this case, they have employed the SportingGoodsStore schema.

Recommendations for optimizing store landing pages

If you’re ready to take the next step in your local search optimization and build store landing pages, here are some best practices to follow:

    Ensure store landing pages maintain the same user experience, layout and design as the rest of your site. The navigation in the header and footer should be the same so users can easily navigate to other sections of the site.Pages should be mobile friendly at minimum and fully mobile optimized at best.Ensure keyword targeting is done for page titles, meta descriptions, body content, headers and images.Avoid keyword stuffing and fluffed content. Write for users. Avoid boilerplate content and instead write unique content about each location.Include a map embed, nearby store locations, store hours, address and contact information, etc.Include helpful features like “text to mobile” and “get directions.”Incorporate structured data markup from Schema.org such as LocalBusiness, Store, DepartmentStore, etc.Ensure store pages live within a logical site hierarchy. Example: Store Finder > State > City/Town > Store Location PageInclude content that is helpful to users such as:Events (be sure to leverage Event schema markup).Coupons and sales.Names and photos of managers and employees — for example, Ethan Allen highlights its design team at each location on their store landing pages.Videos of the store location.Photos of the outside and inside of the store.Testimonials or reviews of the store.Include social media profile widgets or buttons as well as social sharing buttons.Ensure store landing pages are included in your XML Sitemap (or, create a specific XML Sitemap for only store pages), and submit the sitemap to both Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Site optimization or traffic optimization: Which delivers better results?

You hear a lot about user experience (UX) testing these days. As an online marketer, you’re supposed to test your site, test your landing pages, test your app… basically, the mantra is, if you’re not testing, you’re wasting money on bad design!

No argument here.

But, while I’ve been a big fan of testing and conversion rate optimization (CRO) for almost a decade, I’m also a very practical sort of guy. CRO is a great idea, but sometimes you have to pick your priorities as an online marketer — especially if you’re in charge of marketing a smaller business with limited resources.

For marketers in this sort of situation, choosing where to spend your time is just as important as choosing where to spend your marketing budget, which begs the question:

Should you focus on improving your traffic quality, or on improving your site experience?

Now, don’t get me wrong — in a perfect world, you’d optimize your site and your traffic quality simultaneously. But most of us have to operate under less-than-perfect circumstances, and we need to spend our time where it counts.

A quick thought experiment

Of course, every campaign and business is different, so there is no “one size fits all” answer to the traffic vs. testing debate. But, to get a little perspective on how traffic optimization and site optimization can affect your marketing campaigns, let’s take a page out of Einstein’s book and run a little thought experiment.

Since this is Search Engine Land, let’s imagine that you’ve set up a paid search campaign for your company. On average, your cost per click is $4, but you’d like to change that.

Over the past few months, you’ve spent $20,000 on this campaign, and your ads were clicked on about 5,000 times.

Check out all that traffic! With that many visitors, you should be rolling in conversions, right?

At first glance, it certainly seems that way, but if we assume that your account is about as effective as the average AdWords account, you spent three-quarters of that $20,000 marketing budget on traffic that has no interest in converting.

In other words, you wasted $15,000 on the wrong clicks.

The simple fact of the matter is, most AdWords accounts spend 76 percent or more of their budget on search terms that have never and will never convert. (To learn more about this problem, check out this article and this article.)

As a result, you thought that $20,000 was paying for 5,000 potential customers when in reality, it was paying for 1,250 potential customers:

So, while it only costs $4 to get a visitor to your website, you’re spending $16 to get a potential customer to your site. No wonder you’re not rolling in conversions!

Optimizing your site

At $16 a pop, it’s clear that you need to give every potential customer who reaches your site the best possible experience. After all, you need to squeeze every last conversion out of those 1,250 prime visitors.

So, you decide to run an A/B test.

Unfortunately, while it looks like you’re testing an audience of 5,000 visitors, in reality, you’re really only testing a subset of those visitors — the 1,250 visitors who actually might convert.

As a result, while on paper your test looks like this:

You’re really only testing this:

Sad as that is, it still gives you enough traffic for your A/B test. So you set things up, spend another $20,000 on the campaign, and review your results.

To your credit, your new design performs 20 percent better than your original design. That’s a major win!

No wonder people love conversion rate optimization. You spent the same amount of money, but by optimizing your site, you got 20 percent more conversions out of your traffic.

In fact, at a $4 cost per click, your cost per conversion just dropped from $25 a pop to about $21.

Taking the blinders off

But wait, we’re missing something. Remember, while your cost per click for the whole campaign was only $4, it actually costs you $16 to get a potential customer to your site. These test results are only showing how your potential customers responded to your new site design.

If we take the full 5,000 clicks you were really testing into account, your test looks more like this:

And your results look like this:

Now, while going from a 4 percent conversion rate to a 4.8 percent conversion rate is a lot less exciting than going from a 16 percent conversion rate to a 19 percent conversion rate, your conversion rate still increased by 20 percent. Your test was still successful.

But, when we take all of that irrelevant, expensive traffic into account, you’re not paying $21 per conversion. You’re paying around $83 per conversion. All of sudden, your awesome test results aren’t looking quite so awesome.

Optimizing your traffic

Remember, when we were only talking about your potential customers, a $4 cost per click meant a $25 cost per conversion in your control group.

In other words, if you were only paying for relevant, interested traffic to your site, you’d be paying less than one-third of what you are paying for a conversion on your optimized site.

By comparison, if you could improve the quality of your traffic by eliminating 20 percent of your worthless clicks (often a much easier task than improving the performance of your site), you would drop your cost per conversion to $80. Take that $4,000 you were wasting on the wrong traffic and invest it in driving more of the right traffic, and you could be looking at a $55 cost per conversion (and a lot more conversions, too!).

This isn’t just theory, either. We’ve seen firsthand at Disruptive how eliminating wasted ad spend from an account can dramatically reduce a client’s cost per conversion.

For example, here’s what happened when we cut one client’s wasted ad spend by about 20 percent:

In a matter of weeks, their cost per conversion dropped by almost 80 percent.

When you get right down to it, you can’t test your way out of low-quality traffic. In the thought experiment above, you’d need to nearly double your conversion rate to get a $55 cost per conversion. More often than not, that will take a lot more time and effort than a little campaign optimization.

Picking your priorities

Okay, now that we’ve run our thought experiment, what’s the answer? Should you be tweaking your site or tweaking your campaigns?

The honest answer is, it really depends.

If your paid search campaigns are already highly optimized, and you’re confident that your ad spend is driving high-quality traffic to your site, then conversion rate optimization is the way to go. After all, if you’ve got the right people on your site, you need to do everything you can to make their experience compelling.

For most business, however, the quickest route to success is improving traffic quality. As exciting as traffic is, if you’re paying to put the wrong people on your site, it’s going to be hard to make decent money at online advertising.

Conclusion

As marketers, it can be hard to decide where to spend our valuable time and resources. This is particularly important when it comes to optimizing your site and your traffic, which both have a huge influence on the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

If you have to pick one, though, it’s usually best to start by refining your traffic quality before you put a ton of time and effort into refining your site. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but in my experience, traffic optimization will deliver quicker and more meaningful results than site optimization for most businesses.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Advanced testing: What 4,000 A/B tests can teach you

SMX Advanced has always featured the industry’s top talent discussing what they’re passionate about: search marketing. Last week’s conference in Seattle was no different.

Ayat Shukairy, co-founder and vice president of client solutions at Invesp, shared nine lessons from 11 years of A/B testing experience. The goal of the presentation was to present the many nuances which go into a successful A/B testing plan. After 4,000 successful conversion rate optimization (CRO) implementations, Shukairy has developed quite a knowledge base.

Ayat Shukairy

Below I have listed Shukairy’s nine key takeaways, along with some additional insights and commentary:

1. We often focus on the wrong thing

Shukairy advised us to stop focusing on the short term. We need to keep our long-term testing plans in mind when executing our strategies.

Additionally, Shukairy reminded the audience to be skeptical of giant lifts in performance; if you see a huge lift in conversion rates (CVR), then check to make sure that (a) you’ve run the test long enough to produce meaningful results, and (b) this test is not an outlier.

2. Create a compelling website narrative

There are three types of A/B testing: element-level testing, page-level testing (layout) and visitor flow testing. Shukairy notes that page-level testing can yield between 7-9 percent improvement in CVR, while visitor flow testing is something that’s going give you larger improvements (successful implementations can show 16-18 percent improvement).

However, even the best testers will reach a threshold without a compelling narrative. Define your narrative and “wow” your visitors.

3. Don’t assume you live in a vacuum

Your website experience is only a single touch point for customers, so it’s important to consider your website within the context of your entire brand. Consider your brand from the perspective of your potential customers — ask yourself, “How does my brand look to my audience?” Understand every touch point and its impact on the consumer, as each touch point can impact conversion rates.

4. Don’t assume you know everything about customers

Listen to customers through qualitative research. Polls and surveys to uncover motivations should be conducted prior to launching A/B tests on your web experience. Well thought-out market research is essential to development of a good hypothesis.  

5. Obtain buy-in from everyone

Make sure you can get buy-in from all client stakeholders regarding the philosophies of CRO. You need everyone in different departments to be vested in order to succeed. The more information, discussion and engagement you receive from different departments, the more successful your CRO efforts will be.

6. Embrace failure

Shukairy noted that only 13 percent of A/B tests report significant uplifts — which means that 87 percent do not. Let this fact change the way you think about CRO. More often than not, your tests will fail to drive meaningful growth. That means you must push through and innovate on your failure, using failed A/B tests to generate research opportunities.

7. Align your website objectives with overall business KPIs

A testing tool is only as useful as the actionable insights obtained from it. So, when measuring the results of your A/B tests, ask yourself, “What is the dollar impact?” If you can’t answer this question, you may need to update your reports to ensure that you are measuring KPIs (key performance indicators) that most closely align with business objectives.

Use data to uncover problems that are hindering growth, and make sure the problems you solve have a direct impact on the KPIs that matter most.  

8. Understand A/B testing statistics

There is a key statistic that most testers underutilize: statistical power. Statistical power is the probability that a statistical test will detect an effect when there is, in fact, an effect to be detected. A high statistical power reduces the likelihood of making a Type II error (concluding there is no effect when there actually is one).

Tests with a high statistical power and a high confidence threshold will reduce the likelihood of a false positive, so always collect a significant sample size before you determine results.

9. Be careful with pollution of your A/B testing results

Run tests longer, and don’t make changes while the test is running. Any change you make to the test environment during a test will pollute your results. This includes trimming off under-performing variations, changing the allocation percentage of traffic and so on.

If you absolutely need to make a change to the environment, you will need to restart your tests and begin with a clean sample.

Thinking differently about CRO

All in all, I thought Ayat Shukairy gave a wonderful presentation. After it was done, I asked her, “What overarching piece of advice would you give to A/B testers?”

She replied, “Change the way you think about conversion rate optimization.”

Advanced Testing: What 4,000 Successful A/B Tests Can Teach You By Ayat Shukairy from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

4 reasons your PPC programs can fail

None of us set out to have our PPC programs fail. But sometimes they do, despite our best intentions.

Why do these programs fail? There can be many reasons. But sometimes, behind those failures, is some inadvertent self-sabotage — sabotage that will virtually guarantee a failed PPC program.

To help you avoid inadvertently setting your PPC programs up for failure, I’ll use this column to describe four ways to “help” your PPC programs falter or self-destruct.

1. Put too many options on your landing page

I know, I know. I’ve talked before about how landing pages are critical to PPC success and how important it is to keep them focused. But I’m going to repeat myself because it’s that important.

As you know, the purpose of landing pages is to facilitate conversions. You want people who’ve clicked on your ad to take the next step, whether it’s requesting a quote, giving you a call, downloading a package or something else.

Landing pages go astray when they provide too many options for visitors. Ideally, you want to limit the number of actions that landing page visitors can take to just one or two.

When you give visitors too many options, they’re likely to get sidetracked or confused and take no action at all.

Let’s look at this example:

As you can see, this landing page sends visitors in all kinds of directions, taking them down a wandering path that may never lead to a conversion.

In this case, I would narrow the options to a phone number (and use website call tracking to see if it’s getting any traction) and either a download or a contact form (preferably one landing page for each so you can test which option works best in this market).

2. Don’t touch your PPC account for six months or more

Whenever I log into a new client account and find it hasn’t been touched in six months or more, I have to pause. How did this happen?

Sometimes, it’s just one of those things. Maybe the client’s marketing team opened the PPC account and assigned it to a team member. Then that team member left, and the team hasn’t gotten back to it. These things happen. And while it’s not ideal, it’s understandable.

But sometimes we find that accounts haven’t been touched in months when we take them over from an ad agency. (It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.)

How is it that an agency-monitored account hasn’t been touched in six months? It might be neglect. Or it might be a difference in strategy.

Some agencies make risk management their highest priority. (And, to be fair, sometimes the client is highly risk-adverse.) Some have tight budgets they need to adhere to. Either way, the agency locks down the account settings like Fort Knox. They choose conservative settings — such as exact match, shared or limited budget settings, tight ad schedules and standard ad rotations — so there’s no chance of “wasted” ad spend or overages.

Perhaps coincidentally, these settings also minimize the need to manage the account. If you choose nothing but the most restrictive settings, there’s little to monitor and few decisions to make.

But the problem with this kind of “batten down the hatches” approach is that it’s extremely limiting. You’ll never get awesome results unless you’re willing to experiment, try different strategies and tactics, and, yes, take some risks. And that means putting some money behind your efforts and monitoring daily, even hourly, to see what happens.

Will a “batten down the hatches” approach cause your PPC program to fail? Possibly. If your results remain unimpressive, there might be pressure to move budget and resources to other marketing initiatives with a higher ROI.

More importantly, this kind of approach closes the door on mega-results that could take your PPC marketing program to the next level.

3. Don’t include sitelinks

Most of us can agree that sitelinks are a key component of almost any PPC campaign or account. They offer advertisers many advantages.

As I’ve explained elsewhere, sitelinks are an important way to add additional links to your ad and take up more ad real estate. They’re a great way to send visitors directly to the most relevant page for their needs (a win for everyone).

They can even improve ad rank, as noted in the AdWords blog:

Ad extensions and formats … influence the position of your ad on the search results page. If two competing ads have the same bid and quality, then the ad with the more positive expected impact from extensions will generally appear in a higher position than the other.

But even with all these advantages, clients will occasionally ask us not to include sitelinks in their ads. When we ask why, we get one of these responses:

‘I don’t think they’re necessary.’

Sometimes clients state that they only want to send visitors to their one landing page. And because the ad is sending visitors there already, sitelinks aren’t necessary.

What they don’t realize is that we can use sitelinks with different messaging to capture visitors who might otherwise not have clicked on the ad — all while continuing to get the visitors who are clicking to the main landing page. Having the extra ad real estate is well worth the effort.

‘My competitors aren’t using them.’

If your competitors aren’t using sitelinks, that’s exactly why you should be using them. Sitelinks will help you stand out from the competition and may even help rank your ads higher.

‘I don’t want to draw too much attention to my ad.’

I have to question the logic of this one. As an advertiser, you want to draw attention to your ads.

Will a lack of sitelinks cause your PPC program to sputter and die? Perhaps. If it indicates a general reluctance to explore different AdWords features, then it could be the canary in the coal mine.

4. Focus on the ‘wrong’ metrics

One of our clients likes to test things — and we love that about him! Thanks to his willingness to let us experiment, we’ve been able to discover and deploy some highly effective and profitable strategies in his accounts.

Recently, he read an article that said having a high Quality Score can save money on ad spend due to lower costs per click.

This makes sense. But generally, we don’t focus too much on Quality Score as a metric. In our experience, if you have relevant keywords, which trigger relevant ads, which land on relevant landing pages, then your Quality Score will take care of itself.

In this case, our client’s Quality Score was already good (his lowest was a seven), so we weren’t totally convinced that bumping his score to an eight or nine was going to make much difference. But he was adamant in wanting to try it, so we agreed.

We reviewed his ads and landing pages and bumped up bids to improve his click-through rate. After a month and a half (with an accompanying BIG increase in ad spend), we did see an increase in sales. But at the same time, we saw a decrease in year-over-year ROI and no change in Quality Score.

How helpful was this exercise, ultimately? Not much. True, it might have contributed to the lifetime value of these clients, but it’s hard to say for sure. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to convince our client to change his focus to other, more relevant and informative metrics.

It’s easy to get fixated on one or two PPC metrics, to the detriment of the others. This is especially true when the metric seems to encapsulate everything into one simple number. But if you steer your PPC program based on one metric, and one metric only, you’ll probably end up in the ditch.

No one wants their PPC program to fail

Of course, no one wants their paid search program to fail. And in some cases, you can do everything absolutely right and still struggle.

But at the very least, you can improve your odds of success by not sabotaging your own efforts with these four PPC duds — guaranteed!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Why the Google Search Network isn’t working for your B2B business

Not infrequently, we hear from B2B businesses that have grown frustrated with the Google Search Network. Their marketing teams have been running Search Network campaigns for a while, but they’ve seen little return on their investment. And so they conclude that, as an ad network, the Search Network simply doesn’t work for them.

I can’t immediately dismiss the notion that the Search Network isn’t a good fit for some B2B companies (more on this later). But at the same time, we’ve turned around enough B2B Search Network campaigns to not give up so easily.

If your marketing team is struggling to get good (or even decent) Search Network results, you need to check a few items and explore a few ideas before abandoning your campaigns. Sometimes, the solution is simpler than you think.

1. The problem of landing page creep

Within tech companies, there’s a saying: feature creep is a great way to kill new products and projects. And the same kind of logic applies to landing page forms.

As a PPC agency, our clients take an active interest in our PPC landing pages. We know this because our email correspondence is often forwarded and/or copied to seven or more people and departments. And inevitably, each person on that email distribution list has his/her own ideas about what data to collect from prospects.

As a result, the number of fields on these landing pages tends to grow. A form that started with “name” and “email address” grows to include fields such as “title,” “city,” “ZIP code,” “industry” and more.

Before you know it, the form takes five minutes to complete.

My team member, Chelsea Tryon, came across this problem recently. One of her clients was seeing a major dip in PPC-generated leads. Upon inspection, she discovered the client’s landing page form had grown considerably in length.

She recommended that the client eliminate any unnecessary fields. They did so without issue, as they found that most of the data wasn’t being used.

And once they tightened up the form, the client’s lead numbers jumped back up — surpassing where they were before.

2. Where did you put that phone number?

Sometimes, a campaign course correction is as simple as fixing your phone number. I know this sounds overly simplistic. But you’d be amazed at how small, yet critical, components get overlooked when everyone’s thinking big picture.

This recently happened with a B2B client of ours. I was trying to persuade the client to add website call tracking to their site. In preparation, I did some investigating and discovered that the client’s telephone number was no longer prominently displayed in the top right corner of every web page.

Instead, the number had been moved (and the size and color changed), making it much harder to find.

Which leads us to the contentious issue of phones vs. forms in B2B.

Some observers argue that phone numbers aren’t all that important for B2B businesses. Given the more complex and protracted nature of the B2B sales process, potential customers prefer to initiate contact through a form rather than “pick up the phone.” No one, they argue, is going to order a million-dollar computer system over the phone.

There is some truth to that argument. But that doesn’t mean that some customers won’t want to initiate contact by calling. Maybe they want to ask a couple of questions. Maybe they want to know a little more about your product or service before giving you their email address.

Regardless of the reason, shouldn’t you make it as easy for them as possible?

But back to our client. In addition to the hard-to-find number, we faced another problem: a vanity phone number.

You’re already familiar with vanity numbers. They’re those phone numbers where letters are substituted for numbers to make the number more memorable. Such as 1-800-FLOWERS or 1-800-SOS-TAXI.

Unfortunately, AdWords call tracking won’t work with vanity numbers.

But, upon further investigation, we discovered that not all of the client’s website pages displayed the vanity number. Some inner pages displayed the old-style numeric number. So we added website call tracking anyway.

And guess what? We started tracking one lead per business day from these numbers. This may not sound like much, but considering we were generating these calls from a few random inner pages, imagine what we could generate from the entire site!

Of course, another reason we were so keen to implement website call tracking was to nail down lead attribution. Without call tracking in place, it’s difficult to determine what’s generating call leads. How are your customers finding you?

When we raise this issue with clients, they counter with, “We always ask where people found us.” But when they ask, customers usually respond “Google.” Okay, but does that mean organic search Google or PPC Google? We don’t know.

Without good lead attribution, it’s easy for PPC success to masquerade as PPC failure. So before you decide to shut down your “unsuccessful” Search Network campaign, you need to find out what’s really going on.

3. How expensive is too expensive?

When a marketing team or business owner concludes that “PPC doesn’t work for us,” what they often mean is that it’s too expensive. They look at the price of clicks for their keywords in the Search Network, and they simply feel they can’t get in the game. But that’s a conclusion that warrants closer scrutiny.

Sometimes, when clients complain about the cost of Search Network clicks, I’ll ask them how much they spent on their last trade show. Usually, they’re spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for every show. And at the same time, they want to limit their PPC budget to $5,000 per month.

Sometimes, more substantial budgets bring more substantial results. Bigger budgets allow us to explore more strategies and tactics. And, as any PPC pro will tell you, behind every hugely successful PPC campaign is a lot of experimentation.

In contrast, some of our clients do run in high-cost-per-click circles. Taken out of context, the price tag does look expensive. But for them, the lucrative returns more than outweigh the cost of the clicks.

Of course, working out this kind of ROI calculation for your B2B business requires some legwork. How many leads is your campaign generating? And what is the value of each lead?

But if a larger PPC budget allows for more experimentation — which can allow for more success — then the effort is well worth it. And it puts the costs of PPC into perspective.

4. Consider alternative approaches

That said, there are some B2B businesses where the Google Search Network may not make sense. There, I said it!

For example, if you’re a new tech company, and your Search Network keywords are priced at $100-plus per click, and you’re competing with mega brands, then maybe you need to take a different, more creative approach.

One such approach could be to start with the Google Display Network (GDN) and make use of their ultra-specific targeting and cheaper clicks. Maybe combine the GDN with a compelling video on your site that explains who you are and what you do.

All of this will help build up your online presence. And over time, your branded traffic will grow, as will your remarketing lists.

Then, you can dip your toe into the Search Network, but limit your keywords to branded terms and long-tail search terms that are unique to your business and offerings.

Underlying this alternative strategy is a shift in mindset. Instead of asking, “What are our customers searching for?” you ask, “Who is our target customer?” and “What specific questions do they ask about our solutions?” And you use the answers to direct your strategy.

Don’t give up too early

It’s easy to conclude that the Search Network doesn’t work for your B2B business when you don’t get the results you want. But that doesn’t mean you and your marketing team should give up.

Sometimes, small changes can make a big difference. Sometimes, you can justify a larger PPC spend with lucrative returns.

And if nothing else works, it’s time to get creative.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

The best-kept AdWords secret: AMP your landing pages

The best experiences are those where we don’t have to wait for stuff: receiving a one-hour delivery from Instacart, skipping the lines at Disney World with a FastPass, getting a response from our digital assistants like Alexa in less than a second.

Big, successful companies have figured out that “fast = more money,” and so they cater to consumers’ insatiable demand for instant gratification. By doing so, they build a strategic advantage and a stronger business.

Luckily, there are areas of business where we don’t need to invest millions to deliver more speed. In fact, we can leverage free, open-source projects like Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) from Google to make mobile web pages faster — and, as I’ll explain in this post, that can easily turn into a significant improvement in the bottom line.

And even though AdWords doesn’t seem to officially support AMP yet, advertisers can still use the technology to serve faster landing pages. That can lead to big gains in conversion rates and quality, and in turn help advertisers in a crowded field gain that all-important edge over the competition.

Google really cares about speed

From its earliest days, Google has painstakingly labored to make search results pages load so fast that users would get an answer before their minds could start to wander and start to think about something else. According to KissMetrics, Google once ran an experiment to show 30 search results instead of 10. The extra 500 milliseconds it took to load the page led to a 20 percent drop in usage.

Google is so serious about speed that there have even been cases where they showed no ads on the SERPs because the ad auction took too long. Rather than delaying the page from loading, they simply served it with no ads. They knew that the short-term revenue loss of a few clicks would be more than made up in the long run when happy users came back to do many more searches.

But as hard as Google works on making their own site really fast, they lose a lot of control as soon as the user clicks on a result and leaves Google. Despite efforts like preloading pages with the Google toolbar (which no longer exists), building a faster browser in Google Chrome and incentivizing fast load times by making them part of the Quality Score (QS) algorithm, the mobile web is often still a painfully slow place to visit.

But Google has a plan to fix that…

Making the mobile web faster with AMP

In October 2015, Google developed Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to make the mobile web faster for users. Their search results page began highlighting AMP pages in February 2016. They recently announced that there are now 1.7 billion AMP pages from 860,000 domains, with 35 million new pages being added every week.

If you read news stories on your mobile device from Google Search results, you’ve likely encountered AMP pages. They are marked with a lightning bolt icon (image) and they load really, really fast. AMP states that the first listing usually loads in less than one second.

Screen shot from Google News and Weather App — May 2017

AMP is an open-sourced standard (www.ampproject.org), so it can be used for free by anyone who wants to make their mobile pages faster. Its goal is to help developers create mobile web landing pages that load much faster than the average HTML page.

There are two core components that let AMP achieve greater speed and a better user experience:

    Code hygiene, something that anyone who implements AMP on their site will benefit from right away by producing better code.The AMP cache, something where developers have to rely on Google to support it, but with additional benefits once that support is enabled.

AMP support in AdWords

AdWords doesn’t favor ads that lead to AMP landing pages, nor do they load them from the AMP cache. But advertisers can still get all the speed advantages from AMP’s cleaner code hygiene. AMP is a web standard, so advertisers can use it today to create faster landing pages which typically have a positive impact on bounce rates, conversion rates, time on site, and maybe even quality metrics (more on this below).

According to a 2017 study by Akamai, there are several benefits of faster landing pages:

A 100-millisecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7 percent.A two-second delay in web page load time increase bounce rates by 103 percent.53 percent of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.

Given Google’s involvement with AMP, their history of promoting a faster internet and clear benefits for advertisers who make faster pages, there’s no doubt in my mind that Google will extend support for AMP to AdWords. When they do, it will create additional value for advertisers using AMP. For that reason, advertisers would be wise to have a plan for deploying AMP on their sites in 2017.

AMP drives big gains for sites using it

While Google started the open source project, it’s already been adopted by some big names. eBay AMP’ed millions of pages, Pinterest is using it and WordPress has deployed it to tens of millions of the sites they host.

And those using it are seeing positive impacts on their business. For example, The Washington Post saw an 88 percent improvement in load times for AMP content vs. traditional content, and that has helped them increase seven-day return visits from mobile users by 23 percent.

NoBroker has seen a 10 percent increase in pages per session and an 18 percent reduction in bounce rate.

Faster loading pages create a better user experience, and that leads to increased usage. For a publisher who monetizes through subscriptions or ads on their pages, this means AMPing their site puts them in a great position to grow their revenues. For e-commerce sites, it likely also means more business.

To give you a real example of the difference AMP can make in the user experience, here’s an example of the same page loading with and without AMP:

Why advertisers should care about AMP

Since implementing AMP, Wired Magazine reports that they’ve seen a 25 percent increase in CTR when they advertise to get more readers. While they don’t disclose it, we know that a better CTR produces a better Quality Score, and hence a lower cost per click for the same ad rank. If you want to understand that better, I wrote a pretty detailed overview of how Quality Score works shortly after I left Google here and more recently here.

Screen shot from https://www.ampproject.org/case-studies/wired/ — May 2017

Once people are reading Wired’s stories, they see a 63 percent increase in CTR of the ads they run to monetize their site.

So let’s summarize that:

25 percent more readers from the same ad buyProbably a lower average CPC thanks to improved Quality Score63 percent more monetization

That works out to better ROAS (return on ad spend) and more revenue, so it makes a really compelling argument for investing in AMP pages. It also means that since they have a better performing business, they can afford more competitive bids to move up higher in the auction to further boost their business.

All of this got me thinking, why don’t we hear about more advertisers using AMP? Is this one of the best-kept secrets of successful advertisers? So I asked Google…

Google’s response

I reached out to Google with some questions and received some details from Jon Diorio, a Group Product Manager on the AdWords team. Here’s what I learned.

Q: Can you share who’s using AMP and what results they’re seeing?

We cannot divulge advertiser details without permission. That said, we have permission from the following three advertisers to share their business names and some of their URLs (AMP vs. non-AMP). I also took the liberty of running some 3G speed tests via WebPageTest.org, to help illustrate the difference in speed that you get from loading AMP HTML vs. non-AMP HTML. Note, these results do not take into account the additional speed benefits that would be realized if these pages were served from the AMP cache (these are served from the advertisers’ web servers).

In these non-cached cases, the average reduction in their median load time is 54 percent, with a range of 29 percent to 73 percent. Similarly, the average reduction in their median speed index is 42 percent, with a range of 31 percent to 63 percent.

Boxed.com (speed test results)

These are three groups of URL pairs, where the first in each pair is the AMP page and the second is the non-AMP version. This is why the first in each pair is faster. I’ve annotated this to make it easier to understand. The same structure is used for subsequent screen shots.

Bodybuilding.com (speed test results)

These are three groups of URL pairs, where the first in each pair is the AMP page, and the second is the non-AMP version. This is why the first in each pair is faster.

Grand Luxury Hotels (speed test results)

These are three groups of URL pairs, where the first in each pair is the AMP page, and the second is the non-AMP version. This is why the first in each pair is faster.

Q: Will Google serve advertisers’ landing pages from AMP cache when an AMP page is available?

Today, the organic search listings do. AdWords does not. That said, advertisers still stand to benefit from the fact that AMP HTML renders faster than all but the most highly optimized HTML. As you can see from the results above. When these pages are served from the AMP cache (e.g., if organic indexes them), then the load times would be approximately one second.

Q: Does AMP potentially interfere with measurement systems like Google Analytics because content is preloaded and it gets counted as a view even though no one came?

AMP will never trigger page views via preloading. AMP is component-based, and the AMP runtime knows exactly what each component does on an AMP page. Therefore, when preloading, AMP knows not to trigger any components (in this case, amp-analytics or amp-pixel) that trigger analytics on measurement systems like Google Analytics. Therefore, for example, a page view is only triggered when a real user loads the page on their browser.

Q: Does the improvement in page load speed impact landing page QS?

As we also mention in our help center, decreasing your landing page loading time can improve your landing page experience. That said, remember that AdWords’ quality system is based on hundreds of different signals, so it’s difficult to predict how one single change in isolation will affect the scores.

Q: How much would that Landing Page QS impact overall QS?

As you know, QS is not used in the auction, but is a representation of your historical quality in previous auctions. Your “below average,” “average” or “above average” rating for landing page experience in the front end has a simple relationship with the 1–10 QS number in the front end, but this is different than our real-time estimates of quality at auction time. Landing page experience continues to play a very important role in the Ad Rank function, and the overall weight it carries in that score is dynamic and changes based on a number of factors.

Next steps for trying AMP

Hopefully, I’ve laid out why AMP is worth using for your AdWords landing pages.

Here are a few good next steps to learn more or to get started:

    Read the AdWords help article about AMP.Read the AdWords Developer’s Guide to AMP, which covers some of the typical concerns around personalized content, conversion tracking, A/B testing and more.Test the impact for your own site. If you don’t have a testing tool, you can use AdWords’ Draft & Experiments (D&E) where you create a draft campaign, add the AMP URLs as the Mobile Final URL (for each ad), and then launch this as an experiment.

There are a few caveats when using Experiments:

You will need a lot of conversions in your campaign to receive a statistically significant result.D&E decides a searcher’s A/B assignment with every query, so if your customers likely click your ads a few times before buying, this might not give you a true sense (since the conversion will be attributed to whether or not the last click followed an AMP page interaction).TIP: Make sure every landing page in the draft has an AMP equivalent page, so this is a true apples-to-apples comparison.

Conclusion

Today, AMP has been adopted on over 1.7 billion pages, and Google’s organic search listings both identify AMP pages and load them instantly. While AdWords does not provide the same level of support, advertisers can still benefit today from sending mobile traffic to AMP pages.

There are tremendous improvements in bounce rate, conversion rate and quality from having faster landing pages. Since AMP pages are still HTML pages, AdWords will treat them like any other page. All you need to do is enter them as your ad’s and/or keyword’s mobile landing page.

Assuming it’s just a matter of time until AdWords starts to support the AMP cache, advertisers who set up AMP now will be the first to benefit from the additional boost in speed when AdWords starts to support it. And should AdWords add a visual cue to ads with AMP landing pages (like organic does today), that could possibly produce a boost in CTR like we’ve seen so many times when they change how ads look.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

The great big list of landing page tests to try

About a month ago, I published an article that provided a few areas of consideration when diving into conversion rate optimization, with ideas to help kick off brainstorming discussions. I love conversion rate optimization (CRO) because it is one of the few things that you can do that will have an impact on the performance of all of your digital channels at once. In other words, it is time well spent.

Still, some of us don’t have the time or resources to brainstorm landing page tests, so this post goes one step further to provide concrete testing ideas (46 ideas, to be exact) that you can try on your landing pages today!

Improve your call to action

The call to action (CTA) is a great place to start testing because it can be very impactful. There are several options for testing what works best for your CTA:

    Try using a button for your CTA instead of a link (or instead of text, if it is a phone number).Test the button color — no matter what or where the button may be (a phone number, a download, or even if it is within the form).Test the placement of your CTA on the page. For example, are your phone numbers in the header image? In the top line of the page? At the bottom?Test multiple CTAs, even if they are the same. Often I see a CTA above the page but nothing at the bottom. This sort of assumes that people will perform the action before reading any of the content. If they’ve read the content, that’s the perfect time to invite them to learn more. Test having the same CTA at the top and bottom for ease of use.Test your CTA text. There are tons that you could try – in fact, there are probably entire posts devoted to this type of testing. Off the top of my head, here are a few: learn more, buy now, call now, get a free quote, request your copy, request a quote, talk with an experienced _____ now, find out how we can help, and the list goes on.

Capture the information

Ah, the forms. One of the most popular landing page components. There are so many different options for testing forms, and even small changes can have substantial lifts.

    Test the form placement on the page: right side, left side or centered; above the fold and below the fold.Test the form color to see if it stands out more.Test the form layout: vertical versus horizontal, drop-down fields versus radio buttons, and so on.If at all possible, test requiring fewer form fields. Sure, it’s nice to know everything there is to know about a prospect: first name, last name, credit card for the free trial, mother’s maiden name, dental records and so on. But could you live without some of that information if it meant higher lead numbers?Test discreet pop-ups while the user navigates, if you are able to execute them without disrupting the user experience. For example, HubSpot has lead flows that can be triggered based upon certain parameters. They can also be executed without interrupting the user’s ability to navigate the site. (If you are driving ads to the page, depending on the network that you are using, ensure pop-ups are not a violation of their policies.)Test a pop-up when the user leaves the site. (But make it valuable, not annoying! And, as mentioned in the previous point, if you are driving ads to the page, ensure pop-ups are not a violation of the ad network’s policies.)

Test different imagery

As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Images can provide context and direction that visitors can use to quickly understand if the landing page is relevant to their needs. Not to mention the aesthetic appeal of images that are used to supplement the text on a page.

However, there are also images that don’t add value, and some that can even drive people away by misleading the visitor as to the page’s content or intended audience.  To ensure your image game is strong, try running some of these tests:

    Try testing photos with people vs. photos without people. Often photos with people look staged and unnatural, but on the other hand, images with people can help visitors build a connection with the brand.Test icons and vectors instead of photographs. Sometimes photographs aren’t able to illustrate key points as well as vectors or other images.Test the size of the image on the page.Test where the image is placed — or whether there’s an image on the page at all.Test product pictures and screen shots in place of pictures with more abstract meanings. (This is especially for things like SaaS. Of course, product pictures would be used for things like e-commerce, restaurants and retail.)Test a new header image.Test a banner with text, on top of or in lieu of a header image.

Rework your layout

Sometimes your landing pages need a structural overhaul. It can be tough to get there with A/B tests, but it can be done. And although the general best practice is to only test one element at a time, sometimes there is value in multivariate testing.

    Most people read content in an “F” pattern. Test placing your most important elements so that they fall within this line of sight.Test a page with a header image or banner versus a page without.Test including the CTA as part of the header image vs. entirely separate.

Put your copy to work

Your landing page copy tells your story. We all know that content is king, but it still, arguably, gets the short end of the stick when landing pages are created on the fly. It can be beneficial to revisit the value of your copy and to test different strategies in order to make the copy more impactful.

    Test new copy to try to make the page more persuasive.Look into the traffic stats for the page in question, and then test creating different pages for your highest-volume markets and personas in order to provide an experience that is hyper-relevant to those visitors.Sometimes the volume of text on a page can be a little overwhelming. Most people scan a landing page, as opposed to reading the whole thing word-for-word. Test breaking the content into smaller paragraphs so that it seems a little more approachable.Test bulleted lists instead of paragraphs.Test emphasizing the key points with block quotes, images of quotes, or by incorporating them into subheaders.Try adjusting your landing page copy to be written in active voice versus passive voice.Test creating copy and imagery that is solution-oriented instead of feature-centric.Test how much content is visible above the fold versus below the fold. Bonus: consider testing exactly what text falls above the fold.Test interactive content such as videos, quizzes or pages that users can interact with.Test personalizing the content on the page. There are several tools that can help with this, including some marketing automation tools.Test whether the inclusion of testimonials begets a lift in conversion rate.You can also try updating your meta-title and meta-description to see if that boosts traffic to your page through organic results or other channels such as social, which show the page description. This can be especially beneficial for landing pages that didn’t have meta-descriptions to begin with because they weren’t meant to rank.

To nav or not to nav, that is the question

The way visitors navigate pages (or don’t!) is an important component of the way your story is told, so it is important to be mindful of the way you want your visitors to interact with your page(s). I’ve rarely seen a landing page perform best that had full navigation, but sometimes a page with limited navigational options has performed better than no navigation, because it allowed the visitors to explore more information about the product before committing to a demo.

    Test landing pages with no navigation versus full navigation.If full navigation performs best, try testing a secondary navigation option to help them find more information about the product or service that they’ve shown interest in so that they can easily find more information.Test the winner of the above test against a few select navigational options.

Provide content and collateral

If you know me, you know that I am a big proponent of micro-conversions, in the right situation. You can provide useful content to buyers to help them continue their journey, while also obtaining more information about them and where they are in their journey. With that will come several testing opportunities.

    Although the call, purchase or demo request may be the main CTA, you might want to test a secondary CTA (such as an email newsletter sign-up or a white paper download). Then, follow through to see if the addition of those conversions is leading to more sales long-term.Test whether gating or not gating generates more leads. For paid search, you can do this by building audiences off of the piece of content and then tracking what happens to those audiences. Or you could use Google Analytics to analyze flow reports, but know that there are some limitations given these are based upon sessions, not users.Test a different content offering to see which performs better. For example, if you’re currently using an e-book, you could try recording yourself reading the e-book and create an audiobook. Then you can test which of those draws more conversions.

Go for the upsell (or cross-sell)

Most CRO opportunities focus on the main selling goal, but there is a lot of opportunity for upsell and cross-sell conversion rate testing as well. Here are a few opportunities:

    Before the purchase (or lead submission) is completed, suggest other items the customer may like.Suggest additional features and add-ons the customer might like access to before the purchase is completed.Before the purchase (or lead submission) is completed, suggest other products that complement the customer’s needs.After the purchase, provide content and information about additional relevant products and services.

Focus on continued engagement

    After the purchase, test providing additional content to ensure customers get the most use out of their purchase.After purchase, create opportunities for customers to share their purchase or experiences with your product.After the purchase, invite customers to follow your social networks and provide product or service feedback.

Review the quality of traffic

If you’ve tested and tested your pages, and you still find that your conversion rates are fairly low, it might be that the traffic isn’t as relevant as it could be. Take a look in your analytics platform to determine if there are traffic sources or keywords that aren’t performing as well as others. Then dig in further from there.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.